“The Invisible Man”
Release Date: February 28, 2020
Runtime: 124 mins
Directed by: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Elisabeth Moss
It is pretty common for me to go into a movie with high expectations and walk out disappointed. The reverse, going into a movie without bad expectations and walking out impressed, is much more rare. This weekend, I was very pleasantly surprised to come across one of these rare specimens, “The Invisible Man.”
It is basically a universal law that any horror movie which gets released to theaters in the first couple months of the year is going to be bad. This reliably unreliable release date window, together with a truly horrendous trailer, told me all I needed to know, or so I thought. I went begrudgingly into the theater, preparing myself for two hours of boredom interrupted every other minute by a loud burst of music leading my lizard brain to put me in fight or flight mode for a few fractions of a second.
What I actually got was an expertly acted, carefully directed and intelligently written, at least until the last few minutes, psychological thriller. “The Invisible Man” borrows its premise from H.G. Wells’ classic science fiction novel of the same name. In adapting it for modern moviegoers, writer/director Leigh Whannell wisely keeps the invisible man invisible for most of the runtime. In effect, we are on edge even when everything seems normal. An otherwise standard scene is given added tension by this unseen presence right in front of us, prepared to strike at any minute. The film makes this well-done though generic monster movie plot more interesting by using the invisible man as a metaphor for being in an abusive relationship.
Whannell previously directed 2018’s action-thriller “Upgrade.” Though I was underwhelmed by that movie, the fight scenes were a clear highlight. “The Invisible Man” is less of an action-centric film, but there is still some here. Rather than being purely adrenaline-fueled and fun, though, it is played for horror. Especially impressive are the numerous scenes where the invisible man is harassing or attacking characters. Actors throw themselves onto the floor or against walls without making it appear rehearsed or fake.
All of this would have already made this movie better than I was expecting, but the piece which pulls “The Invisible Man” up from OK to pretty good is the lead performance from Elisabeth Moss. She has to come off as a lot of things to make this movie work, and she does all of these and more.
Unfortunately, “The Invisible Man” falls apart in its last 10 minutes. A plot twist is thrown in seemingly because the filmmakers thought the ending which actually would have made sense was too predictable and wanted to throw out a last minute curveball. The more I think about the implications of this reveal, the worse it gets. It is so bad I feel s if I were to see the movie again, I would likely sit there in frustration, picking up on even more reasons the twist does not work at all. It was also an entirely pointless plot point because the thing we thought was going to happen still happens five minutes later anyway. You could remove the twist and the last few minutes and “The Invisible Man” would essentially be the same, or even slightly better.
This is probably a movie worth seeing, but I would not go rushing out to the theater as soon as possible. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, I would recommend waiting for it to come out on demand.